Saturday, October 15, 2011
WOODY ALLEN'S MATCH POINT- TERRIBLE FASCINATION TILL THE END
In the series of Woody Allen’s later offerings, I am going backwards. After being bowled over by Midnight in Paris I came to Match Point which is a longer movie and more mainstream with lesser of Woody Allen’s overt intellectualism. The Director suffers from an expectation problem. His fans want him to evolve and when he does anything different he is decried for not sticking to his strengths. Here, we have a movie with his signature in film making in all aspects but he has gone closer to mainstream notion of a murder film. The film is in the general tradition of his earlier success Crimes and Misdemeanors. A mistress is killed for preserving the domestic idyll. Difference here is about degree of remorse and intensity. The earlier one had its light moments. Here we are more in the tradition of ‘Talented Mr Ripley’, perhaps a better rendition of amoral quest of an upwardly mobile ambitious and talented young man. I enjoyed the movie very much.
Best thing about the movie is that it is plot driven with a lot happening on the story front without being shallow on characterization. Mastery of Woody Allen is evident in the way he establishes the characters quickly. He will have a quick scene, almost staccato, but that will be sufficient to establish a key trait or element of the plot. Bold overture of Chris played by Jonathan Rhys Meyers towards Nola (Scarlett Johansson) over ping pong table, within seconds of their meeting establishes the attraction, Chris’s well honed sense of opportunity and appetite for risk taking. Action scenes are almost abrupt but take the plot forward without being jerky. Their social climbing and rich people’s easy life and the lack of angularity are very vividly captured.
The movie involves a rich British family (London and country life are present as Woody Allen is a connoisseur of great cities) that includes two people from less privileged background who hope to enter the life of privilege by exploiting the chances afforded to them by their good looks. Both of them get attracted to each other which is off limit. Early in their interaction Nola clearly warns Chris and also tells him about his better chances of scoring. Allen is adept at keeping the perspective locked on Chris and conveys the frustration of Nola clearly. Dynamics of Chris entry, acceptance and rise in the family is one of the many pleasures of the movie. It is subtle but clear-cut. Chris established his credentials with his subdued eagerness and Nola spoils it by being brazen about his lack of success. Twist and turns in this process are a lesson in building a complex story.
A good movie makes you think about its themes. Here moral vacancy, interplay between greed ambition and responsibility provides enough food for thought. Woody Allen gives enough scope to these themes by not taking too much time in establishing his characters. He uses type casting and clichés with surefootedness of an old timer. You may end up thinking- whether ambition makes many heinous crimes tolerable. In what circumstances such amoral approach can be condoned? Jonathan Rhys Meyers is cast perfectly. Using the words of Roger Ebert “Meyers has a face that can express crafty desire, which is not pure lust but more like lust transformed by quick strategic calculations.” Woody Allen success here lies in maintaining the ‘terrible fascination’ throughout the movie. He remains ahead of us, creates new expectations, maintains the cynical quality of the film without being too taxing. Cops may be very accommodating but they are diligent enough to keep the pressure. Anyway Chris is fortunate that he is living the dictum of his life – "I'd rather be lucky than good,"